How Not to Disagree

Like everybody else I hate to be called names, insulted, or belittled. Recently, a left-of-center blogger more prominent than I referred to something I had posted as “insane” meaning, presumably, that he or she disagreed with what I had written (the subject was Iraq). That’s a lousy way to disagree.

It’s reasonable to disagree. It’s reasonable to explain why you disagree and to present evidence or other arguments in an attempt to persuade somebody with whom you disagree to your point of view. It’s not reasonable to insult them or dismiss their point-of-view as insane.

It doesn’t persuade. It doesn’t convince. It doesn’t raise the standing of your argument or support it in any way. It does turn a potential ally into an opponent. I can only gather that this is a person so convinced of his or her overwhelming support that allies are unnecessary.

If it’s an attempt at “clearing the field”, i.e., prevailing by driving your interlocutor out of the conversation with abuse, it’s a mistake. That approach can only be taken successfully from a position of overwhelming strength. I’m too stubborn for that to work, anyway.

Just for the record I continue to believe that I’ve been right at each and every step of our Iraq expedition and that events are proving that I’m right. I thought that invading Iraq was the wrong decision; I think that leaving before the country is more stable than it is now would be the wrong decision, too. If that’s insanity, so be it, but maybe we should spend more time listening to our crazy people.

6 comments… add one
  • More prominent in what respect?

  • You may be the least insane person on the internets. I don’t always agree with you but crazy you are not.

  • More prominent in what respect

    Twice my links, traffic, etc.

  • “Twice my links, traffic, etc.”

    Heh. That’s prominence? We could both start a porn blog and achieve that.

    Anyone that dismisses another’s ideas as “insane” in such a flippant manner and cannot support such an accusation is not prominent, in my book. Their base is their own ideology and little else. As such they appeal to the general masses who lean in one political direction but are otherwise intellectually undefined. They rely on an online sycophant to define their views and the rest is viral, sloppy and generally robotic in nature. Kos is a good example. Not a lot of critical thought, horrid writing but that beam of leftism draws the undefined like moths to a flame. Most people don’t want to think deep, they simply want to claim they do such and then be told what to think.

  • The very weakest form of argument is the ad hominem attack and justifies an appropriate response. It always pays to point that out to the folks who use such it. Questioning both their intelligence and canine heritage is also an option. It seems more and more often that such forms of demonizing anyone who does not agree with them is coming to define the left today. They are anything but liberal. Arthur Brooks did a good article touching on this in the WSJ some time ago that you might find interesting.

  • The very weakest form of argument is the ad hominem attack

    That brings to mind one of my very favorite literary jokes. In his master work, Summa Theologica (I think), Thomas Aquinas at one point wrote “The appeal to authority is the weakest form of argumentation. As Augustine said …”.

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